Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Harpoon head

naulaq “harpoon point, harpoon head”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

Back in those days they didn’t have bombs or anything. They struck [the whale] with a bone harpoon with a seal poke [float] on the end of the line. After they threw a harpoon in the whale the poke and everything went right in the water. And then a person in one of the crews had a special song, a good luck song. And they’re powerful… Pretty soon the whale would come up, without disappearing away from them. The animal would come up, just like, “I give up.”

—Kenneth Toovak, 2002

Bone whaling harpoons with stone points were used until the 1880’s when the Iñupiat adopted explosive darts and bombs from American commercial whalers. The hole was for attaching a line that had seal skin floats attached.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Village: Point Hope
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length: 30.3cm
Accession Date: 1905
Source: John Hackman (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 004476.000